EastEnders boss Chris Clenshaw spills epic Christmas flash-forward secrets
It's going to be one dramatic year on Albert Square for Stacey, Suki, Linda, Sharon, Denise and Kathy...
Well, have you got your breath back, EastEnders fans?
In a twist that the BBC One soap has never done before, a ladies' lock-in at the Queen Vic pub comprised of Linda Carter (Kellie Bright), Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner), Suki Kaur Panesar (Balvinder Sopal), Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth), Denise Fox (Diane Parish), and Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) ended with a flash-forward to Christmas Day 2023.
Now, we all know EastEnders is a big event at Christmas, but this year will see these six ladies connected with a bloody death right in the middle of the pub on a wedding day - where Sharon is the bride!
Stacey has blood on her hands, Denise is holding a smashed bottle, and all of the ladies looked shocked as bride Sharon bends down to hold a man's wrist and confirms, "he's dead."
So, what happens next?!
Now, following that epic cliffhanger, executive producer Chris Clenshaw has spilt the secrets behind the shocking twist storyline, how it came about and teases what is to come next for the iconic characters involved in the story.
How did you and the team come up with this incredible flashforward scene storyline?
We were looking for a vehicle for The Six (women) – Linda, Suki, Kathy, Stacey, Denise and Sharon – to come together, and we were looking for an episode to get viewers really excited as we set up an event that they’ll hopefully look forward to all year.”
How long have you and the team been planning this?
It’s been in the pipeline since I took over at the beginning of last year (2022). I was looking for a blockbuster story for 2023 and there was clearly an appetite for a ‘whodunnit’, but I was reluctant to play a ‘whodunnit’ in the traditional form, largely due to the spectacularly brilliant ‘Who Killed Lucy’ storyline, that was not just hugely successful but also incredibly gripping throughout. I, therefore, tasked the writing and story team that if we were to do another ‘whodunnit’ it would have to be different, have to feel different, and have to have a very different mechanic at its core. A couple of our writers and story team took that brief on board and came back with the idea of flashing forward and, in doing so, we’re promising a ‘whodunnit’ is coming in the future. We developed the idea and thought it would be even more exciting if we didn’t reveal who the victim is – becoming so much more than a ‘whodunnit’… It’s a ‘who-is-it’ as well. We then decided to kick the story off at a time when The Six (women) – Linda, Suki, Kathy, Stacey, Denise and Sharon – are each involved in stories connected to the men in their lives, which fortunately happened to be around the 38th anniversary of EastEnders.
Why was it important for you to try out a format that has never been shown before on EastEnders?
When doing something we as a show have never attempted before, we have to consider whether it’s right for EastEnders and how the audience will feel about it. It wasn’t a decision we made easily but, as long as we remain true to the DNA of the show, which is about family, community, and love, and we bear that in mind at all times, I believe we can try different things, we can play with form, we can play with structure and we can create intrigue and grip and excite our audience in new ways.
The ending opens up a whole host of questions, can you tease what’s in store for the characters involved?
Linda’s world has been thrown upside down by seeing a photo of Shirley with Dean, but she’s forced to focus on who her new business partner will be or face losing her home. Both Sharon and Nish are hoping to get the keys to the castle, but her knight in shining armour may not be who you think.
Suki’s struggling in her marriage with Nish and is desperately trying to convince herself that she doesn’t have feelings for Eve. As the year progresses, Suki will uncover truths, and have her relationships tested but ultimately her biggest secret could push her to the extreme.
Kathy’s planning to tie the knot with Rocky but we know Rocky he has a past so just what will catch up with him.
Not only has Stacey been dealing with the rising cost of living, but also struggling to keep her pregnant daughter out of harm’s way. This year Stacey finds herself doing something she’s never done before in an effort to protect her family and unborn grandchild.
Denise’s marriage to Jack is crumbling and local-villain Ravi has had his eye on her for weeks now – but how long can she resist temptation? Expect explosive action when Jack discovers what’s been going on.
Just as quickly as Sharon and Keanu reunited, she discovered that he and Sam have history too, leaving Sharon newly single. However, as we know, Sharon’s wearing a wedding dress at Christmas, so watch out for many twists, turns, and plenty of heartbreak along the way.
How can viewers expect the storyline to transpire over the next year?
As we saw in the flash-forward scene, there are six women stood over a dead body, which we know is male. Over the next ten months, expect to see each of these women have huge stories, involving potential victims, which will all collide at Christmas.
How did you choose the specific characters for this storyline? Why was it important to feature all female protagonists?
EastEnders has always had strong women at its heart, and we are incredibly lucky to have a host of hugely talented and extraordinary actors in our gift. It, therefore, made sense to throw some of our most popular and iconic female characters into a huge storyline together that has never been seen before. These women are neighbours, they live on the same square, but we rarely see them all interact in such a huge way.
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I called a meeting in November last year with Kellie, Bal, Gilly, Lacey, Di and Tish – they were all understandably quite confused, yet very intrigued, as to why I wanted to meet with this group all together. We met over lunch and I broke the news and told them our plans for this storyline. As I explained the flash-forward scene and I said the words “and we cut to Christmas 2023”, they all stopped in their tracks, and the room fell silent. They were lost for words. Although that didn’t last long – as they had lots of questions; some of them were immediately trying to guess who the body is, some didn’t want to know, some wanted to know which one of them does it, and others didn’t. I’m sure the questions they had back then are what the audience is asking now…
EastEnders is always eventful at Christmas, and for the first time, we’ve had a sneak preview of what’s to come. Can you give us any more details on what is sure to be an explosive episode?
I’ve already given you a scene from Christmas; I can’t give you anything more, I’m afraid! But what I will say is… expect the unexpected.
The end of the episode ends in a whodunnit. Can you give us any clues on what might have happened, and who might have met their fate?
I’m not going to give anything away that the episode hasn’t already given, but what I will say is there were clues in there. Did you look closely? I urge everyone to re-watch the scene and look at every detail. There’s also a few treats in the scene if you look hard enough. What I’d also say is that a lot can happen in Walford between February and December – circumstances can change, relationships can change, loyalties can change – so what you may suspect now could be somewhat different as we make our way through 2023 and head towards Christmas.
What does the ending mean for the characters moving into next year?
It’s February 2023 and you’re already asking me about 2024! All I can say is that in a flash everything changes for these six women and they’ll experience something that will link them forever.
EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One and from 6am on BBC iPlayer.
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